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Should You Draft Him?: Pittsburgh Steelers


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The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a disappointing 8-8 season, but that is almost certainly the exception rather than the norm. The organization is far too well-coached and well-run to wallow in mediocrity for any extended period of time. With more Super Bowl wins than any other franchise, only one losing season in the last 13 and only three losing seasons in the last 21, poor football for multiple years is something this franchise isn’t really capable of doing.

Unfortunately, the Steelers are also notorious for real life success that doesn’t necessarily translate to fantasy glory. Their 8-8 is far from a great record, but even bad-to-mediocre teams are usually capable of producing a few solid fantasy starters. That did not prove to be the case for the 2012 Steelers. Their highest scoring running back, Jonathan Dwyer, was 41st in standard scoring among running backs. The highest scoring wide receiver, Mike Wallace, was 25th at the position and is no longer on the team. Ben Roethlisberger had solid but unspectacular points-per-game, and missed games put him down to 19th overall amongst quarterbacks. Heath Miller had a phenomenal season, but a torn ACL puts his 2013 production in doubt. While Steelers players worth owning do exist, don’t let the probability of real life success trick you into expecting the same out of your fantasy matchups.

(ADP is based on data from standard scoring 12-team mock drafts on fantasyfootballcalculator.com. Players with additional points-per-reception appeal will be noted. Kickers and defenses will be ignored because they are kickers and defenses.)

Ben Roethlisberger (ADP: Early Round 11): Injuries continue to take their toll on Roethlisberger, and it’s reasonable to expect these kinds of issues to get worse as he moves into his 30s. He hasn’t missed a great deal of action due to injury thanks to his immunity to pain, but he’s had plenty of recent contests where he’s opted to play through high ankle sprains and the like, and his stat sheet has suffered accordingly. Seeing as how Roethlisberger can only get older as humans tend to do and he’s given every indication that he’ll continue to hold onto the ball during a play as long as humanly possible, a fully healthy season is unlikely. Even if he were to stay healthy, I’ve always found him to be an overrated fantasy producer even back when he was regarded as a top-12 quarterback. The passing efficiency and clutch plays have always been excellent, but the actual touchdown totals have never been elite. In 12-team leagues he’s only going to be taken as a backup, and players with greater upside like Josh Freeman, Carson Palmer, Sam Bradford and Matt Schaub will be available a full round or two later, so I would pass.

Should you draft him? NO

Le’Veon Bell (ADP: Early Round 4): I’m of two mindsets about Bell. On the one hand, I find myself highly skeptical of the chances of him putting up numbers that make you glad you took him in Round 4. I also find myself wary of rookies in general, especially ones with a 40-time of only 4.6. He has good size, but the speed, acceleration and ability to make tacklers miss are all on the underwhelming side. He is not a talent who will make things happen. He will require good blocking to make an impact. On the other hand, he’s built for goal line carries and the kind of physical inside rushing that Pittsburgh emphasizes, and his receiving skills are solid. He also doesn’t need to be terribly impressive to outshine the likes of Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman and LaRod Stephens-Howling, so he’s the odds-on favorite to lock down the starting gig.

Furthermore, the running backs who are being drafted after Bell only get riskier and worse. If you still haven’t selected a second or third running back and you’ve passed on Bell, you’re going to have to settle for Ryan Mathews, Chris Ivory, Ahmad Bradshaw, Rashard Mendenhall, a Cincinnati running back, or you’ll have to take a backup to an injury prone starter and hope for the best. I really don’t like taking Bell early in Round 4, but considering how many good quarterbacks and wide receivers will still be available in Round 5 and beyond, and how quickly the running back position gets picked down to the bone, if you need a running back and he’s the top one available, he’s worth grabbing.

Should you draft him? YES

Jonathan Dwyer/Isaac Redman/LaRod Stephens-Howling (ADP: Round 13/Undrafted/Undrafted): Stephens-Howling is actually alright in his extremely specialized role. It’s just that he would not be effective if a coach ever tried to make him an every down back. As for the other two, we’ve seen what happens when they get the reigns to the offense. Redman and Dwyer have some nice assets to bring to the table when used in a limited fashion, but it’s painfully clear that even in the event of a serious injury or abject failure on the part of Bell, neither will distinguish themselves enough to make a significant fantasy impact. Leave them on waivers.

Should you draft him? NO

Antonio Brown (ADP: Early Round 6): A high ankle sprain robbed Brown of much of his capacity to do damage after the catch, which would explain why he had 400 fewer yards in 2012 than he did in 2011 despite nearly the same number of receptions. If he stays healthy, the combination of Mike Wallace being gone and a diminished Heath Miller should make him closer to the guy who went for more than 1,100 yards than the player we saw last year.

As the de facto No. 1 receiver on the team, he will be looking at a very high number of targets, so even if he fails to play well or gets hurt again he should be a worthy fantasy start due to sheer volume alone. As a talented player stepping into a bigger role, he has the upside to significantly outperform his draft position, and he has a higher floor than most players with similar average draft positions. He’s a worthy low-end WR2 who could be more and I’d give a green light to draft him.

Should you draft him? YES

Emmanuel Sanders (ADP: Mid-Round 10): I understand the appeal here seeing as how he’s locked into a starting gig, he looks to benefit from Brown drawing more coverage, and he will be incredibly motivated as a 26-year old wide receiver in a contract year. That being said, he only managed to put up one touchdown last year despite increased playing time, and only has five in three seasons. Scouts talk about his explosiveness, but he’s never had a catch for more than 40 yards. The opportunity and motivation are present, but I need more than that. I need some sort of indication that a player is, you know, actually good before investing a draft pick. There are other players with a similar average draft position that I believe simply have more upside and are more worthy of stashing on your bench than him.

Should you draft him? NO

Markus Wheaton/Jerricho Cotchery (ADP: Undrafted): The Steelers got some good value when Wheaton fell as far as he did in this year’s draft. He’s a great pick in rookie-only and dynasty formats since he’ll likely be a starting outside receiver as soon as next year when Sanders is out of town, but he isn’t really draft worthy in redraft formats. As for Cotchery, he is what he is. In nine NFL seasons he had one 1,000-yard year way back in 2007, he’s never had more than five touchdowns, and in two years in a Steelers uniform he’s done next to nothing. Strange fantasy zombies like Brandon Lloyd have magically appeared in their early 30’s, but “Hey, it’s humanly possible it could happen!” is not a good enough reason for investing a draft pick.

Should you draft him? NO

Heath Miller (ADP: Mid-Round 13): Speaking of players in their early 30s who unexpectedly rose to fantasy dominance, Miller had the best fantasy season of his career in 2012. Through most of his eight-year career he’s been more of a fantasy bye week fill-in than anything else. It’s nothing against him as a player, because he is an absolutely fantastic tight end. The problem is that the Steelers simply don’t heavily feature the tight end in the passing game. If fantasy awarded points for good blocking, picking up blitzes, and sportsmanship, Miller would be a top-5 tight end every season. Last year’s receiving outburst was more the exception than the norm, and his major knee ligaments are presently oatmeal. We’re talking about a guy who usually falls outside the top-12 at the position coming off an unbelievably brutal knee injury. He could become a valuable waiver add in the middle of the season, but when you draft in August, leave him alone.

Should you draft him? NO